Could you let remote staff work from the beach?

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

July 06 2021

Roaming the world, working from a beach wherever the Wi-Fi allows…

While that used to be a desirable freelancer way of life, it’s now reality for many full-time employees. In fact, six million jobs in the UK became “anywhere jobs” due to COVID-19 last year.

As a whopping 89% of UK businesses plan to offer hybrid work permanently, managers need to make decisions about where their staff can work – and fast. Here’s all you need to know about complete remote freedom…

What are the rules on allowing staff to work anywhere?

The rules on where your staff can work are entirely up to you.

Rather staff work in the safety of their own home? That’s fine. Or would you like to give employees the freedom to take their work on a far-flung trip? That’s fine, too.

Or maybe you’d prefer a compromise between the two – like allowing your staff to work from spots like a local coffee shop when they’re not in the workplace.

But whatever you decide, you need to make it clear in your remote working policy. Because without clear guidelines, employees could take “work anywhere” too literally. Which means they could head thousands of miles (and multiple time zones) away – before you’ve had chance to lay down any ground rules.

To decide what’s best for your business, take a look at these main considerations…

Things to think about…

Confidentiality

Would you mind if a stranger overheard the ins and outs of your morning meetings?

Because when you allow staff to work anywhere, that could be the case. If your business deals with confidential or sensitive information, you need to take steps to prevent any leaks.

This could mean asking staff to avoid calls or virtual meetings in public spaces, or to encrypt sensitive documents. Plus, you should make it clear to staff exactly what kind of information is off limits. 

If you’re still concerned about confidentiality, asking staff to work from home – instead of “anywhere” – could be more suitable for your business.

Productivity

It’s one thing working in the café down the road. But if staff take their laptop away on their trip away, they might not be entirely focused on the job.

If you’re offering complete freedom over work locations, keep a close eye on the level of output. You could do this by tracking timesheets and providing weekly targets. And if you still notice a significant drop in productivity, it could be time to revisit your policy.

Also, you should remind staff that any non-work activities should take place outside work hours. Make it clear that employees should use their annual leave to cover any time away or leisure activities.

If productivity is still low or an employee becomes hard to reach, disciplinary action might be your only option.

Health & safety

When staff work outside the office, you might think you’re free from health & safety responsibilities.

But actually, you’re still liable for certain risks – even if your staff are working in a café on the other side of the world. To prevent common office-related injuries like a bad back or strained eyesight, you need to reduce DSE risks.

This means you need to share a DSE checklist with all staff. And if the assessment flags up any issues about an unsafe working environment, you should step in - like providing an ergonomic chair or covering the cost of an eye test. 

GDPR breaches

Data protection rules mean you’re liable when sensitive information gets leaked. So whether it’s a client’s details or your staff payroll, it’s up to you to make sure these details stay secure.

And without a secure connection to a server, staff could be handing over sensitive data to cyber criminals without realising.

To avoid big GDPR breaches, make sure remote staff can securely access and handle any protected data – like with two-factor authentication or encryption.

Time zones

When staff work overseas, you need to consider the difference in local time. If your team relies on constant collaboration, a large time difference could be tricky to manage.

Remember, staff shouldn’t be working while on a holiday – abroad or not. So if staff work whilst they’re away, ask them to use their annual leave and take some time out from work.

If an employee wants to stay overseas on a longer or permanent basis – like with their family – that’s different. In this case, ask whether the time difference is manageable. Also, consider if your employee needs to visit clients or other staff regularly, and whether this would be possible.

Your customer or client experience

If one of your account managers is speaking to a client from the beach, it might reflect badly on your business. A backdrop of screaming seagulls doesn’t exactly suggest your employee is 100 per cent on the job…

If your staff regularly carry out external calls, it’s wise to put restrictions on working locations. For example, it makes sense to require staff to always work in a quiet location with a reliable internet connection – and add this to your remote working policy.

The perks of offering more freedom…

Reduced absence

Unauthorised absence is damaging to any business. And as staff enjoy the warmer weather, the temptation to pull a ‘sick day’ could rocket – in fact, research shows that 32% of people are considering faking sickness  this summer.

So if your people have the freedom to work from their garden or local park, you could see fewer sick days.

Happier staff

Whether it’s more time outdoors or with family, remote working can boost employee wellbeing. And since happier staff reward you with hard work, you could see the difference in your bottom line, too.

Better retention

There’s more to staff loyalty than pay rises. To keep talented employees onboard, you could consider offering freedom over work locations. With the option to work anywhere, your staff could be more likely to stay for the long haul – even if they move home or abroad.

So if confidentiality isn’t a big issue for your business – and you’re happy to measure hard work by output – allowing your staff to work anywhere could work well.

Keep tabs on working locations

Whether staff are in their home office or overseas, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on where they’re working.

With the Blip clocking in app from BrightHR, you can set up a geofence (a virtual boundary) around your employee’s chosen work location. When your employee leaves or enters that location, they’ll be asked to clock in for a day’s work.

It means you always know your staff are working when and where they should be… 

Whatever you decide, make your policy clear

If you offer remote work, it’s important your staff know where they stand – and where they work.

To avoid any confusion, share a remote work policy and make sure it answers these questions:

  • Can remote staff work away from their home address?
  • Are there any requirements a location needs to meet i.e. a stable internet connection?
  • How will you monitor staff productivity?
  • What are the rules on handling sensitive data or discussing confidential information?
  • Will remote working affect staff working hours or any benefits i.e. childcare?

Time to review your remote working policy? See how our experts take the hassle out of your paperwork.

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